Many Love Mid Century
Many folks of younger generations are obsessed with midcentury modern furniture. This style describes developments in design and architecture during the middle of the 20th century (roughly 1933 to 1965, though some would argue the period is limited to 1947 to 1957). What is it about this period that calls to a younger demographic?
I believe the answer has to do with the essential lightness and flexibility of the style, and also its relevance to the TV show "Mad Men," which re-popularized everything from Eames lounge chairs to Dorothy Thorpe silver-banded martini and highball glasses.
In addition to television, many people who were born later than the mid-'40s and '50s became familiar with reproductions of the vintage midcentury designs in 1999 and the years since, when a California entrepreneur, Rob Forbes, launched Design Within Reach, a direct-mail catalog and online business. Every piece of furniture is accompanied by a biography of the designers. The catalog served as an educational tool for furniture design. Notables like Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Jens Risom, Le Corbusier, George Nelson, Herman Miller and Knoll were featured, and their work was explained. Some of the designs were made possible by conquering manufacturing techniques that allowed for tubular steel legs. Steel was bent, and plastics were formed in elegant shapes.
Midcentury furniture is also enjoying a resurgence because it is more petite in size and thus fits into smaller spaces. Those who live in smaller homes, apartments or micro-units today, which largely include millennials and those of Generation X, especially enjoy this furniture. They can find pieces that work for their space and reflect them and their taste. On a very basic design level, most midcentury pieces are crafted with thin legs that lift the item up off the ground and allow air and space to circulate. Graceful bases lift the elements, and whatever flooring is in place runs underneath, resulting in a sweeping unification of an area.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, furniture arrangements began to change. Pieces were pulled out into the room. Folding screens and room dividers were introduced with an eye toward creating a flexible space. In this little dining room, for example, the chevron wood floor combined with the midcentury table and chairs expands the room because one can see the flooring flow under the table. Imagine if the table base were solid and dropped to the ground; the flow of the room would stop at the face of the cabinet.
Another characteristic of mid-20th-century furniture is being sculptural and attractive from every view. Each chair or table stands on its own as a commanding object with both function and grace. Devotees of the genre appreciate the qualities that make each piece special. For example, this table is not just an ordinary piece of furniture. It is both a sculpture and a highly functional table (there's no possibility of bumping one's legs on the table, for example). Design matters, and I think those who love midcentury pieces are also attracted to the dual achievements of high utility and superior attention to detail.
Lots of pieces from very affordable resources are heavily influenced by this era. Check out IKEA, West Elm or Room&Board. I applaud these companies for bringing good quality and style to millions of consumers. I am a huge fan of Room&Board because 90 percent of its inventory is American-made by family-owned companies. It offers modern designs and Danish designs, among numerous other styles. Notably, you can find furniture made in broader species of wood, such as ash, oak, maple, walnut and cherry. It is hard to find off-the-shelf furniture made from walnut.
Photo Cred: Bradshaw